Category Archives: Culture

The Shifting Currents of Culture

I’m working my way through a thought provoking book by James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated. In chapter 4, “A Post‑Christian World,” the author explores the impact of culture on Christianity. He identifies and explains “Three Moving Cultural Currents”:

  • Secularization: The church is losing its influence as a shaper of life and thought in the wider social order, and Christianity is losing its place as the dominant worldview.
  • Privatization: A chasm is created between the public and the private spheres of life, and spiritual things are increasingly placed with the private arena.
  • Pluralization: Individuals are confronted with a staggering number of ideologies and faith options competing for their attention.

Regarding secularization, I found the following illustration particularly insightful.

In his Guide for the Perplexed, author E. F. Schumacher relates his experience of getting lost during a sightseeing trip to Moscow during the Stalinist era. Trying to get his bearings, he found himself standing with several large churches within his line of sight. Yet none of these churches were found on his map. An interpreter came to assist him and explained, “We don’t show churches on our maps.”

Schumacher contradicted the interpreter by quickly pointing out a church that was clearly on his map.

“That is a museum,” the interpreter said, “not what we call a ‘living church.’ It is only the ‘living churches’ we don’t show.”

That, Schumacher goes on to conclude, was the cultural point. Those things that mankind has most believed in are no longer on the map of reality, or if they are, they are relegated to a museum. In reflecting on Schumacher’s story, Huston Smith notes that our world “has erased transcendence from our reality map.” Or as C. S. Lewis observes, “Almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.”

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Books, Church, Culture, Quotes


Curious trends

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons – “The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.”

Synod14 – Eleventh General Assembly: “Relatio post disceptationem” of the General Rapporteur, Card. Péter Erdő, 13.10.2014 - A recent press release from the Vatican states that there is a call for priests to note the benefits of cohabitation of unmarried couples, and a rhetorical (?) question asking if the church can accept and value the sexual orientation of homosexuals without violating church teaching. In neither case is either acts condemned but they seem to lean more toward arguing for each.

In “Burning Bridges,” (Season 5, Episode 3) of the CBS drama, Blue Bloods, NYPD Commissioner Frank Regan, played by Tom Selleck, makes a passing comment to the press that the Catholic Church is behind the times on its stance on homosexuality. This, despite the fact that his character is a staunch Catholic.


Followers of Christ are once again faced with the question – Who sets the standards for faith and practice–culture, the Christian community, or the commandments of God? Do we follow society, saints, or the Scriptures?

It may become increasingly lonely to be an evangelical and to hold fast to what Scripture teaches.


John 15:18–19 – “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Luke 18:8 – I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Church, Culture, News stories, Scripture


Watch out for scams

This afternoon I received a robo call on my cell phone. The recording said my B of A debit card had been locked and that I was to press “1” to be transferred to the department that could help me resolve the problem. It sounded too much like a scam, so I hung up. I then called B of A directly and talked to a real person. Sure enough, it was a scam, and one that the bank has received a number of calls about. I’m not sure how they got my cell number or knew which bank I was with, but it was cause for caution and a healthy skepticism.


Posted by on October 2, 2014 in Culture, News stories


The Gospel of “Me”

There is a highly individualized form of cultural Christianity making its way into the church. It could best be called, “The Gospel of Me.” The foundation of this belief is that “God wants me to be happy.” At its core, “The Gospel of Me” is selfish, self-centered, narcissism.

If there is a leader of the movement, it would probably be Joel & Victoria Osteen. The internet has been aflame recently with a video soundbite from the Pastors Osteen — this time offered by Victoria Osteen as her husband Joel beamed in the background.

In her message, Victoria Osteen tells their massive congregation to realize that their devotion to God is not really about God, but about themselves. “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God–I mean, that’s one way to look at it–we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy. . . . That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. . . .”

She continued: “So, I want you to know this morning — Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. . . . When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

There have been numerous responses to the video. Albert Mohler points out that it is one more evidence of “…the consumer culture, the cult of the therapeutic, the marketing impulse, and the sheer superficiality of American cultural Christianity … The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive mega-church media empire. And, to cap it all off, they give Americans what Americans crave — reassurance delivered with a smile.” Daniel Wallace says the statement is “some of the most blatant narcissistic blather ever to come from a pulpit.” One person put together a humorous video  in which Bill Cosby offers a rebuttal to the Osteen’s message. After Victoria Osteen’s statement, Cliff Huxtable in the Bill Cosby show, responds, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

I’ve had conversations recently where I have encountered people who seem to embrace “The Gospel of Me.” In an attempt to understand their thinking, I put together a summary of what they seem to believe.

Those who subscribe to “The Gospel of Me” seem to embrace salvation but reject discipleship. They believe in salvation by faith but reject holy living. They neither work for their salvation nor work to demonstrate their salvation.

Some who embrace this belief system attend church while others do not. Those who attend church want their desires catered to—style of music, type of coffee, color of carpet, pleasing messages that make them feel good, programs for their children, etc. They prefer a church where they can be anonymous spectators who sit on the sidelines. They like to hear the gospel preached, but feel no compulsion to live it or share it.

Still others who subscribe to this system reject the church as a cultural expression that is no longer needed. They emphasize their “personal relationship” with Jesus but have no need for the corporate body of Christ, especially the local church.

The followers of this system tend to read the Bible selectively. They like when Jesus confronts the religious leaders but ignore him when he says, “go your way and sin no more.” They view the Bible as a source of hope and comfort but not a guide for daily life. They love the promises of God but dismiss the commands and instructions.

They reinterpret the Scriptures according to their own desires. They redefine sin as what holds them back from reaching their potential. They are postmodern and pragmatic in their approach, seeing truth as what works for them.

They gravitate toward pastors and teachers who make them feel good and avoid those who preach accountability. They like those who agree with what they think and shy away from anyone who contradicts their opinions. If someone points out the sin in their lifestyle, they dismiss them as judgmental and legalistic. Since God wants them to be happy, they believe, they will follow their feelings regardless of whether or not it conflicts with Scripture.

Rather than a new system, “The Gospel of Me” goes back to Satan’s strategy in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).

“Did God actually say …” (1b) Half-truths designed to cast doubt on God’s goodness
“You will not surely die.” (4) Outright denial of God’s word
“…your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” (5b) Appeal to pride
“…the woman saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” (6a) Appeal to senses and personal desires
“… she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (6b) Eve bought the lie and believed that disobeying God would make her happy. Eve was active in her rebellion and Adam passively went along with her.
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked … And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord …” (7-8) Adam and Eve knew they were wrong and hid from God. Following “The Gospel of Me” will end in shame and regret


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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Bible Study, Church, Culture, Scripture, Theology, Videos


Our selfish selfies point out our need for the gospel

selfie_graphicLove Thy Neighbor as Thy Selfie” is a thought-provoking post on Tim Challies blog. The author, Nathan Eshelman, starts out by explaining that “selfie” is the Oxford English word of the year.

What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

The author goes on to point out that “The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind” and it points out our need for the gospel.

So let’s be honest- we are selfish selfies. May we find grace to deny ourselfies as we cling to Christ that he might cure our selfish fallen hearts.

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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Culture, Tim Challies


Can a Christian leader drink alcoholic beverages?

A friend recently asked me if I covered the subject of the use of alcohol by Christian leaders in my blog. I replied that I had not (until now). However, I had shared my thoughts on the subject with my children back in December 2009. Several years ago when my two oldest children were nearing their college graduations, I started writing what I referred to as, “One dad’s rambling thoughts on becoming an adult.” I tried to periodically address topics and share convictions on issues that we had not previously discussed. The following is what I wrote to them on the subject of drinking. I copied it and sent it to my friend as well. I also mentioned that it is a subject on which the Christian community has changed its opinion in the past generation.

Whether or not you agree with my convictions, I trust this post will challenge you to think through the issues, read the Scriptures, and develop your own convictions.



It’s time for another exciting adventure of “one dad’s rambling thoughts on becoming an adult.” This time I wanted to share some thoughts On Drinking. When __________ was here for her interview with __________, we talked briefly, but I wanted to expand on that discussion as well as share my thoughts with all of you.

Growing up, you guys were taught by us and others to avoid alcohol and drugs. You have attended schools where that was part of the contract or code of conduct. But as you all know, agreeing to a rule and/or signing a contract does not mean that people will follow it. It really comes down to living according to your convictions. As you become adults and leave academia, you will need to develop and live by your own convictions on this subject.

Rather than tell you what to do, let me explain how I developed my own convictions and practice on this issue.

I grew up in a family that was fairly legalistic in its practices. “Good Christians Don’t” was the ruling motto, and it was generally followed by “smoke, drink, or chew, or go out with girls that do.” We couldn’t play cards—Rook was OK; but Poker, Pinochle, or any game with playing cards was bad. My brother and I sat on the sidelines when the class did square dancing in elementary school P.E. Movies were evil unless they were Disney animation, though I don’t quite know how the witches in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc., slipped under the radar. The first non-Disney movie I saw was The Sound of Music. So you can imagine what my parents thought of alcohol.

Going to __________ , the list of restricted activities was longer than it is today. All that to say, I was pretty well told what to do, but very seldom was it explained why.

While attending __________ , one of my professors was __________ of the Bible Department. Loved his classes, hated his tests. During my freshman year, I remember him telling the class to “be mature about the rules of __________ .”

One of the more helpful lectures I remember from __________ was on how to deal with gray areas. He gave us a list of six questions to ask ourselves:

  • Does the Bible speak to the issue? If so, follow the instructions. If not, ask:
  • Will it help me? 1 Corinthians 6:12a – “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.”
  • Will it build up the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:23b – “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
  • Is it addicting? 1 Corinthians 6:12b – “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
  • Will it cause others to stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 – “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
  • Does it glorify God? 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I used those principles to develop my own convictions on the subject of drinking alcohol.

  • Does the Bible speak to the issue? Sort of. The Bible condemns drunkenness, but may allow drinking.
  • Will it help me? Drunkenness will certainly affect my health, driving, decision making, etc., but drinking in moderation still seems gray.
  • Will it build up the body of Christ? In a social setting, drinking could help build a relationship with someone, but that seems like a stretch. On the other hand, if I’m with a non-believer, my lack of drinking could hinder building a relationship.
  • Is it addicting? Drinking wine might be safe, but harder alcohol could certainly be a problem.
  • Will it cause others to stumble? This is probably the key question for me. Assuming I may feel the freedom to drink, might my practice offend someone?
  • Does it glorify God? If C. H. Spurgeon could say of smoking, “I smoke this stogie to the glory of God,” I suppose I could lift a glass of wine and say the same thing.

Having worked through those questions, I came to the conclusion that biblically, I feel that I have the freedom to drink in moderation. However, I choose not to. I don’t want to take the chance of offending someone who might see me. As a parent, I didn’t want to give you a double message that it was ok for me but not for you. As a pastor or leader, how would someone respond if they saw me drinking? I also don’t want to take the chance on becoming addicted. The fact that I don’t care for the smell or taste of beer makes that a non-issue, and being ambivalent about wine helps, but I make my choice primarily on the basis of convictions.

Having said that, there are occasions when mom & I have had a glass of wine or champagne, primarily to be social. At the end of the __________ , the team would celebrate with a glass of champagne. On one trip, __________ wanted to try vodka, so I had a glass with him. I didn’t get past the first sip because it tasted like paint thinner. Not that I’ve ever tried that, but it does burn all the way down. A few weeks ago, we were at the __________ for a __________ and I had a glass of wine with everyone else.

In summary, I feel the freedom to drink, but I choose not to. On the rare occasion that I do, it is a social setting with people who I feel comfortable with and don’t worry about what they may think. I also try not to pass judgment on others who don’t have my same convictions.

This might be one of those topics that would be good to discuss when we are together.

See you in a few days. Love you.



Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Culture, Personal growth, Scripture


Are we compromising our message to fit our culture?

“Most Americans do not worship the gods of other religions. Instead, we worship comfort, control, power, or approval. We have an imbedded sense of entitlement. The culture goes to great lengths to build self-esteem and fuel an idolatrous look within to find strength, peace, and control. As you might imagine, the doctrine of original sin is offensive to this popular notion of self-esteem and the inherent goodness of people. So, some churches do not mention sin for fear it will turn off those they are trying to reach. The culture also says that we should get what we want when we want it. So, some churches proclaim a God who is akin to a genie in a bottle, simply waiting to grant our every wish and desire. In each of these instances, the church has forsaken their light and drifted into the shadows of compromise, thus losing the opportunity to rightly live out the command to be in the world, but not of it.”

Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, Eric Geiger, in Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church

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Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Church, Culture, Quotes


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